HOLLISTER, Calif. (KION) - UPDATE ON OCT. 26, 2023 AT 5:21 P.M.- The lone hospital in San Benito County could finally have an answer to their financial future.
The San Benito County Board of Supervisors submitted a letter of intent during Tuesday's board meeting to create a Joint Powers Authority to manage Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital.
County leaders are looking to create a JPA which would have multiple stakeholders involved including the cities of Hollister and San Juan Bautista along with the San Benito Healthcare District.
As part of the proposed JPA, Salinas Valley Health would become the contacted management agency. Salinas Valley Health would manage Hazel Hawkins Hospital, rural clinics and nursing facilities.
The JPA would have at least two members from San Benito County, at least one representative from city of Hollister and San Juan Bautista, at least two seats from San Benito Healthcare District.
"To meet these needs, it is critical that the hospital remain viable and under local control” said Ray Espinosa, San Benito County Administrator. "We believe that it is possible to maintain the hospital through the proposal outlined in the LOI, and that this is what our community deserves,” said Espinosa in a statement.
This past August, Hazel Hawkins received a letter of intent from American Advancement Management which operates six hospitals throughout the state.
Hazel Hawkins Hospital has been in a fiscal emergency since Nov. 2022.
San Benito County is looking to partner with Hazel Hawkins Hospital in the hopes of long-term success.
A joint power authority would include the San Benito Health District, Hollister, and San Juan Bautista.
A report conducted by a third-party consulting firm analyzed medical staff, the financial situation, and a strategic direction.
The report shows shortages of providers, and financial analysis.
San Benito County is proposing a Joint Power Authority. They say this will broaden the governing structure. However, the hospital says they are unsure if the JPA is the right solution.
"We're very pleased that the county wants to play a role in the future of health care for the residents of San Benito County. There are some technicalities within the JPA. We can't really comment on, or take a position on a JPA," says Marcus Young, Spokesperson for Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital.
A JPA would allow government entities such as the county of San Benito and the city of Hollister to work together on governing the hospital's operations.
"The reason why we filed for Chapter Nine bankruptcy, there were several reasons we did that. One was so that we could sustain our operations and continue to deliver the quality care that we are delivering today on into the future, while we tried to figure some other things out, such as finding a partner or finding a buyer," says Young.
Fed up with this ongoing situation, nurses are scared for the future of the hospital.
"There has been fear and panic that has caused a mass exodus of nurses and caused healthcare workers leaving Hazel Hawkins," said Ariana Sanchez, a registered nurse at Hazel Hawkins
The hospital tells me they are currently fully staffed.
At the end of the day, no matter what solutions the county proposes to the hospital, it is ultimately the hospital's decision on the future of Hazel Hawkins.
In the presentation, it was noted that more than 50% of the county population is receiving healthcare outside of the county.